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HPO, DFW clearances needed for trade school’s $10M federal grant application

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THE Northern Marianas Technical Institute has not yet received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Authority because NMTI still needs to submit environmental and historical clearances to the federal agency, NMTI Chief Executive Officer Agnes McPhetres said.

In an interview, she said the Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Lands and Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife have not submitted the required environmental, biological and historical review of the Koblerville area where NMTI plans to build a new school building.

Agnes McPhetres

“The [federal government] needs to be assured that there is no bird or breeding ground in that area and no ancestral bones buried as well,” she said.

In 2019, the NMTI applied for a $10 million grant from the U.S. EDA.

In Jan. 2020, then-NMTI board chairman John Gonzales said the trade school had received a “tentative approval” of its grant application.

But he said the EDA also required NMTI to become a public institution and to submit historical and environmental clearances from  HPO and DFW.

On Feb. 18, 2019, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed Public Law 20-92, which transformed NMTI, a  non-profit trade school, into a public institution.

McPhetres said NMTI  was assured by HPO and DFW that they would submit review letters to EDA. 

Citing the steep decline in the CNMI government revenue base amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Torres earlier said that NMTI should consider the possibility of merging with Northern Marianas College.

A former NMC president, McPhetres said NMTI wants to be like Guam Community College.

“Now we only give certificates, but one of these days [we want] this institution to be like GCC, which has trades courses and awards associate degrees to the community here,” she added.

NMTI, for example, could offer an associate degree in drafting or other office technology, she said.

McPhetres said NMC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges-Senior College and University Commission.

“If they include NMTI under NMC, the commission will not allow it because NMC is no longer under the junior commission. If they go through with it, it will take years down the line,” she added.

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